Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Public Art

I think I beat this subject to death yesterday.  But Bagman and Butler have allowed me to post some miscellanous public monuement pictures providing I don't talk too much.

I had to put this one in for Barry, who suggested the topic.  I can't remember exactly where but am pretty sure it is in Ontario, Canada.

I've always liked the statue of liberty

 And I found this in 1979 in Madison, Wisconsin.  A fraternity from University of Wisconsin had set it up on the frozen lake.  I was actually one day too late because there had also be Liberty's Head to the right of it but another fraternity had set it on fire the night before.  You can see the pile of ashes on the right.

BAGMAN: "You said you weren't going to talk as much this time!"

Despite all the idiotic seperation of church and state bruhaha
we have in America -- A public memorial to God

Another memorial to God from Vatican City
where the separation of church and state is not an issue.

Brigham Young, searching for a place where his church
would not be destroyed by the state, discovers Salt Lake City

He was serious about it.

In Florence, Dante was rather serious too,
mapping out the circles of hell.

BUTLER: "You're jumping all over the place!  Isn't this the "Hometown" shootout?

BAGMAN: "Home is where I lay my head."

A slightly older public momument.

A slightly bolder public monument.


I thought you didn't want me to talk.

BAGMAN: "It's just an expression."

This last one was actually pulled from a video-camera so the resolution is terrible.  But...

And the ones below might not qualify as Public Art...except they are were and they were public.  But they didn't survive the next high tide.

So with time pressing on, in the immortal words of that brilliant jack of all trades, Porky Pig, "Tha tha tha tha tha that's all, folks."

And if you want anymore and weren't here yesterday, just keep scrolling down to yesterday's pre-Friday Shoot.  

BUTLER:  "You do realize, Mark, that after saying "That's all," you kept writing.  You really should put "That's all" after it really is the end.  


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dialogues in Stone / Boston Statures

The topic for tomorrow's Photo Shootout is "Public Artwork" -- chosen by Barry.  And it threw me into fits of nostalgia.  With Bruce Springfield singing "Glory Days" in the background, I've been sorting through old research notes, faded black and white 8x10's, and manuscript for a never-to-be-published book I worked on in 1973 about Boston Statues.

My grandfather hated Boston Statues.  I've written about him in earlier blogs -- an artist who studied in Europe.   So he was probably comparing them to Michelangelo.  So I always felt a small twinge of disloyalty when became fascinated by them.

I wanted to discover something new about each one.   I even joined the Boston Anthaneum which was a stuffy old private library and gathering spot for old farts about the age I am now.  I really wish I had some candids of the wizened pundits glaring over their reading glasses when the hippie with the camera walked through.   But there were some interesting tidbits in old public records.


If I’m not mistaken, this was the guy who said, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” Thousands of tourists see this statue every year...

...but I’ll be that none of them know that this is actually a statue of Andrew Dexter. 

BUTLER: "Who?"

BAGMAN: "The heck with Dexter!  I don't even know who Prescott was...and don't really give a flip!"

Well, it is nice to know my old friends have let me back in the workshop and are talking to me.  But anyhow, to continue, William Story...

BUTLER: "And who is William Story?!!!!"

The sculptor who made the statue!  Let me finish for Pete's sake!

BAGMAN: "Who the heck is Pete?"

Enough!  William Story may not have been Michelangeo in my grandfather's eyes but he was thorough.  Since there were no paintings or images in existence of the American patriot, William Prescott, William Story looked around and found Andrew Dexter who was Prescott's great-grandson and used him as a model so there would, at least, be a family resemblance.

BUTLER: "Fascinating!"

BAGMAN: "Zzzzzzz.  Snore.  Zzzzzzzz."


This was just a fun discovery. These massive cast bronze doors has just about been forgotten – tourists never saw them. They had been commissioned by the Salada Tea Company when its headquarters were in the building which, by 1970 had been abandoned by the company and building sold several times.

Skyscrapers had been built around that building since the doors had been put there and the sun only touched them for 30 minutes in the morning. I remember setting up my tripod and waiting for the right time. What was really fun was that people would be walking by me, notice the tripod, look over to see what I was shooting and their mouths would drop. I still remember one guy with a briefcase who exclaimed, “My God! Where did that come from!? I walk to work this way every day and never noticed it!”

This was a fun discovery of something forgotten in plain sight.  It led to an article in the Boston Sunday Globe magazine which paid me $200, if I remember correctly, which constituted my total earnings as a freelance writer for the year.  Not enough to quit my day job.


Almost always I shied away from the straight statue tourist documentary shots.  I always looked for details and often focused on the bas reliefs around the base of the actual statues.

There is a statue of Benjamin Franklin that is Boston's oldest full-scale bronze sculpture, dedicated in 1856.  The statue, itself, was done by Richard Greenough, but he was taking too long to finish it.  I guess government projects dragged on forever even back then!  So the town fathers hired Thomas Ball to do the bas relief pieces for the base of the statue.

I kind of liked this one which was Ball's creative approach -- horses standing in the rainstorm when Benjamin Franklin was out discovering electricity.

BAGMAN: "Shocking!"

Speaking of Thomas Ball...

BAGMAN: "Please don't tell another story!!  Just show some pictures and go back to bed."

Speaking of Thomas Ball, I know I posted this one yesterday, but I came across some notes that I had forgotten.  This was Ball's first attempt at an equestrian statue.  Franklin's flat horses don't really count.  In fact, when Ball started this in 1958 he had never done a full size statue of any kind.  He did it in plaster instead of clay because he was working in an old unheated barn.  It took him three yeaers and by the time it was ready for casting there was no bronze available because it was all being used to make cannons for the Civil War.   It was also strange because Thomas Ball considered sculpting to be his day job and was really more proud of his opera singing.   Go figure.

Speaking of the Civil War...

Detail from statue of Lincoln - holding broken chains of slavery

Speaking of the cost of war...

Detail from statue of honoring the invention of anasthesia

BUTLER: "There's a monument to the invention of anasthesia?"

A good thing to memorialize when you think of the alternatives.

William Jennings Bryant
Answering God's calling is one thing...
Having him follow you around looking over your shoulder is another!

I think this was a detail from the Boston Massacre Monument


Sometimes there weren't really interesting stories.

BAGMAN: "No kidding. Sometimes?   Zzzzzzz."

So I just tried to find some new angle or setting.


This was one of the few I took in color...and not very good color either.

"Honoring the Great Spirit"
In front of the Boston Museum of Fine Art

And now, for the next thirty seven public monuments I'll give detailed minutes from the city council meetings that commissioned them...

BUTLER quietly leans over and pulls the plug on my computer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shootout prelude - the topic grabbed my memories!

Oh my goodness! Bagman and Butler have locked me out of the workshop because I stopped blogging regularly and now I find out the theme of Friday’s Shoot-out is Public Artwork!!!!   Barry!  You sure got my mind working!

Boy, did that throw me back to the glory days of nostalgia-land!

I’ve always loved shooting statues. Mostly because they hold still for long periods of time and also because they never get angry and chase you down and stomp on your camera.

I have several I want to post on Friday – assuming I can convince Bagman and Butler to give me access to my computer. But I may also have to do a supplemental black and white post on Thursday.

In the early 70’s, right after college, when I was living in Boston, I contracted a major obsession with statues. I spent a year and a half (at least those hours when I was not working or drinking) researching and shooting Boston statues for a book I wanted to publish called, “Dialogues in Stone.” The idea was not just the tourist guide documentary shots – but to find something interesting or unique about each statue. Why they put it there? Who the sculptor was? Any interesting side-bars?

So I rummaged around the shed and pulled out an old cardboard box full of yellowed note paper and poorly stored 8x10’s, some of them stuck together. The sweet smell of mold and memories.

Memories of riding my bicycle with film camera in a backpack through back alleys of Boston trying to discover forgotten statuary. Getting kicked off the State House lawn at midnight when I was trying to take night shots. Sweating in a makeshift darkroom in my one-bedroom apartment with bottles of developer, stop bath, fixer, and a gallon of cheap red wine – which explains some of the focus problems!

I usually shot details instead of the whole sculpture.  In fact, I don't have a clue what some of the actual statues looked like when I see the shots coming out of the old box.

The book never got published although one publisher wanted me to expand it to include all of New England. But there was no advance money and I was having trouble paying rent already. And I did discover a couple of neat little facts that turned into newspaper articles at 2 cents a word which also didn’t pay the rent. But maybe I can share them with in Thursday version of Friday Shootout.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Home from the hospital, exploring the new world

Noah came for his first visit to Nana and Diggy's house.

Wow! Another huge face looms above me.

Oh, good.  Food.  She must be okay.

This one has a smaller face.  And needs a shave.

My brother is still trying to figure me out.

My brother is this big!

And Daddy teaches him how to fly! 

So much to figure out!
And who is that man with the box that keeps flashing?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Noah upstages Bagman and Butler

I haven't posted for so long, I wasn't sure my key still fit in the lock of the workroom I share with Bagman and Butler.  But since Noah (Conner's brother and Grandson #2) was born yesterday, I thought I really needed to document it even if nobody was reading my blog any more. 

Oh yes.  I'm not sure why this seems to be the most important fact about babies but he weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces.  Maybe birthweight is the most important fact about a newborn because unless you went to Medical School there isn't a lot more to say yet.  Blue eyes, male...that's about it.  After all, he hasn't loined a Little League team or chosen a career path yet. 

But I thought I'd post a few pictures, so I quietly unlocked the door and tried to tiptoe into the workroom.

Bagman is working on bumper stickers for the upcoming political elections.  The bumper stickers say: "Don't vote.  It only encourages them."    Butler is working complicated algoriothms for beating the stock market based on taking the square root of the price/earnings ratio, multiplying it by the number of advertisements in the Wall Street Journal and then applying a factor calculated by the number of women over 75 who have lost their life savings to Goldman Sacks.

The both look up at me in absolute shock! 

BAGMAN:  "What in the name of political horsepoop are you doing here?  Go away!  You abandonned us and we don't want you around any more!"

BUTLER:  He's only be gone a couple of weeks.

BAGMAN:  "But he stopped blogging!!!  I can't forgive him for that!  Without blogging, I no longer exist!"

BUTLER:  "Just because he stopped blogging doesn't mean he can't blog!"

Bagman and I just stare at Butler.  It isn't logical, but it doesn make a kind of sense.  We all shrug it off and I sit down, blow the dust of the computer and post some pictures since this isn't about us -- it's about Noah.

Happy Expectant Parents - BEFORE

Somewhat unfocused, the nervous father
goes to suit up.

Where am I?  Who turned on the lights?

Checking to see if he is ticklish.

Adding some air to make sure he is properly inflated.

Noah's first few of the world beyond the nursery

Okay!  I've had enough for one day! 

Happy parents - AFTER
(Brian appears sleep-deprived already)

Time to call it a day.

Okay - Now I need to get back to work.  But first I'll check in on a few of my favorite bloggers.

BAGMAN:  "Why bother, you twit!  You've already missed 6,785 wonderful creative blogs over the last few weeks!

BUTLER:  "6,785!  Great!  I was looking for the final factor for figuring out good investment possibilities." (He furiously crunches numbers).  "Aha!  BP!  That's the stock to invest in!"